VAT reverse charge on construction services

United Kingdom Publication May 2021

The twice delayed VAT reverse charge on construction services came into effect on 1 March 2021.

The measure is designed as an anti-fraud protection, requiring the recipient of supplies of relevant building and construction services to account for the VAT, and not the supplier. Businesses will need to carefully consider whether the supplies that they make or receive fall within the scope of the new rules, and understand the impact on their own invoicing administration and cash flows. 

The new rules apply to supplies made on or after 1 March 2021, which means that supplies made under an existing contract but which are invoiced after this date would fall into the new regime, and the way in which VAT is charged and accounted for may need to change. In addition, certain recipients may need to make notifications of their status to the supplier.

The scope of the construction services which fall into the new rules largely mirror those within the scope of “construction operations” under the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS), and materials are also  included. In simple terms, the reverse charge apples where a VAT-registered business supplies construction services to another VAT-registered business customer who is registered under the CIS and who has not confirmed in writing to the supplier that they are an “end user” or “intermediary supplier”.

The two key exceptions for end users (where the customer uses the construction services for its own use, as a final customer) and intermediary supplier (for example where a landlord procures works on behalf of its tenant) switch off the reverse charge provisions, provided that the customer has served a written notice on the supplier before the time of the relevant supply. 

While the new regime beds in, HMRC have indicated that they will take a light touch approach to errors, suppliers and consumers of construction services will need to ensure that their accounting systems and compliance processes are updated to reflect the changes to ensure that the supplies are properly categorised and VAT charged, or self-accounted for, as appropriate.

Please contact tax partner Julia Lloyd or other members of our real estate tax team if you would like further information.

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